In December 2015, two shooters opened fire on workers in San Bernardino, California killing 14 people. This barbaric, offline, act of terror brought to the forefront a raging issue of the online world, that of data privacy and security.
When it comes to our phones, we all expect privacy. However, does privacy apply to criminals and terrorists as well, especially when the information needed to prosecute a criminal is locked away in someone’s encrypted phone? Information is valuable to inform decisions on business needs, yet we have to be able to balance the need to understand our customers with the basics of how to protect their privacy.
The Tech industry has a “backdoor encryption” issue—a situation where law enforcement agencies want to bypass a device’s security measures and gain access to protected devices.
The law enforcement community cites antiquated laws—some unchanged since the 1980s, have not kept pace with innovation, preventing investigators from gaining information necessary to keep us safe. Rapid technology advancements, increasing prevalence of smart devices and more complex, lengthy user agreements that deny users of property rights and traditional ownership in the devices they purportedly own needs to be accounted for. This becomes a problematic issue when automobiles and various smart devices can be controlled remotely and close down at the whim of the product’s manufacturer. Another critical aspect of the efforts of securing consumer data and respecting privacy is transparency between law enforcement and tech companies.
Legislative reforms such as the ENCRYPT Act(Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications) are ongoing efforts to restrict state and local governments from requiring backdoors to exist and prevent restrictions of encryption capabilities. The aim is to develop a standardized national encryption policy that protects users’ privacy rights.
As the digitization of our personal information becomes rapid, there is a growing concern not just about who collects our data, but what they collect. According to data privacy and security evangelists, online is merely an extension of the offline as software embedded into objects pervades everyday life.
The traditional, time-tested concepts of property ownership in the offline world can act as frameworks for digital property rights. The path to fair and equitable digital property ownership will not be an easy one, but at the end, the individual’s property rights will prevail. That way, the security and privacy of numerous law-abiding users will not be compromised—and their belief in technology will stay put. In the ideal world, we will not have to choose between security and privacy. Instead, we will be able to find ways for the two to coexist.